OK, You Bought Your Classifieds Software. What is Next?
You have made your first step towards owning your very own classified website by purchasing the script. This is the first step on a trip of thousands of miles, to paraphrase a classic, but what happens next?
How to turn the fresh installation into a popular online service? What can make it stand out from the hordes of similar websites? In other words, why should the customers choose you and not your competition?
These are the questions you should ask yourself at the very early stage of your planning for the new business. Your business requirements dictate the functionality of your website.
An awesome business idea is that "purple cow" Seth Godin urges every businessperson to discover. It may cost nothing but it can potentially bring millions if implemented properly. The only thing required at this stage is creativity. Not money, not technical expertise, just creativity.
However, at this stage you should have already had the magic idea figured out. Now, the next big issue is to figure out how to become known to your potential and future customers. A road to fame is rather winding, and it is not short. Let us take a look at a few milestones along the way.
You already have your default classifieds software installed on your server. You now need to add content to the website. First, describe your service in detail. Try to imagine what people need to know about your services, pricing, extra features and options, perks and benefits.
Be very specific in describing your competitive advantages. For inspiration, check out similar websites or other service-oriented websites. Set up and add as much information as possible to your FAQ section, this is very important.
Add your contact information, and be as comprehensive about it as you can. Provide your email, phone, working hours, set up different emails for technical, sales, and support issues.
Also, set up and configure your Twitter account, add a Facebook page URL, start blogging and use other social media accounts so that people can find you better through various channels. This is a dramatic step forward in popularizing your website, but the specifics of social media promotion is a topic for a different discussion.
Almost all new classified websites suffer from one problem, namely, no listings. New advertisers are not anxious to add their listings to a brand new and empty website because there are few visitors. Visitors leave the website because there are no listings.
For those who wound up in this "catch 22" situation, there is a good solution that works fine for startup websites. It is adding third party listings feeds. Many huge classified websites eagerly let you borrow their listings and publish them on your website so that their cars or houses advertised sell better and quicker. Most of the time, you are basically reselling their products and helping them make money and you work as yet another content distribution partner.
This idea may sound alarming, but in reality, there is a number of positive moments in it for your business. First, you will gain credibility for your website almost immediately among visitors who see lots of ads on your website.
Second, new advertisers will see that you have content. They will be more willing to post their ads because of lots of visitors frequenting your website. Gradually, you will need to replace third-party listing feeds with your very own listings, but it is a big saver for you at the beginning.
Once you have a bunch of listings and a steady flow of visitors (a well-thought SEO campaign is an essential step in this direction), you may want to start selling your ad space. There are different strategies for selling ad space on your classified website.
You can try to insert Google Ad Sense or similar widgets that display third party banners on your website. What you get is a portion of the revenues generated by the service provider. In case you just do not want to be bothered with searching, maintaining, and expanding your relations with advertisers, that would be an ideal solution for you. However, the stream of money will be quite thin as big guys do not really enjoy sharing all that much.
The alternate option is to maintain your own banner/ad space management system and keep 100% of the revenues. At the same time, this option is also more time-, and effort-intensive. You would have to do all the legwork yourself. However, a system like our Banner Management addon will be of great help to you as far as placing and rotating banners on your website.
It is essential to put all the advertising policies, options and price lists right on your website, and let potential advertisers approach you. For best results though, you would also need to be proactive in searching for your advertisers among the local community businesses, etc.
The next step you need to take is finding your own corporate/business customers. Your best bet would be to contact local businesses, old colleagues and acquaintances in the industry you have chosen, and offer them to list their stuff free of charge or with a certain grace period (say, three to six months). Since chose that particular niche, you probably are an expert in it. You should know the market and the rates, competitors, market leaders, etc.
Another good idea would be to join forces with another similar website of your size. That would allow you to exchange listings by doubling the listings with those of your partner website. This will also make the deal of listing on your website yet sweeter to your end customers as they would be able to double the exposure for an awesome price.
Once you have set up your website, you are ready to start promoting your online business. It would be unwise to expect that customers would just pile up at your doorstep. With so much competition and variety, you would need to be proactive in finding, and, more importantly, winning the trust of your ideal audience. Like every other type of business, classified website business needs money to expand. You would need to source out funds to grow it, research and invest in new technologies, and utilize tools that would do your job automatically (automated tweeter reposts, ad feeds, visitor tracking services). Being generous to your customers, not expecting immediate returns and being ready to invest your money, time, and efforts wisely are just several key ingredients for the success of your online-classified website business.
Author: Amanda Morris
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